Blog Articles

By - Staff Editor

Published : 09-08-2018

Prioritising real-time worker feedback; the human supply chain

Just as much as traditional employee surveys in modern workplaces are increasingly seen as outdated, more modern approaches to measure worker conditions in work-sites and supply chains in real-time are starting to appear. This is partly a result of the benefits of that real-time feedback, but also the deficiencies that are myriad in periodic reporting and audit.

Importantly, and the way we see it, is that there is a new focus for supply chain management as a result of the abuses we have all heard about and many of us have seen. The human supply chain is finally the one in focus. For decades the focus was on products; colours, numbers, characteristics, sizes, flavours....but never, never about the humans involved in their making.

In our decades of modern slavery work, we at slavefreetrade have found that slavery, like all illegitimate acts, tend to flourish in darkness. Shining a light on workplace conditions, traditionally done through certification and audit models, is the only way to see what is really going on. Switching that light on only once a year or every couple of years, however, does not represent the best chance of warding off the risk of modern slavery.

“Shining a light on workplace conditions is the only way to see what is really going on”

Businesses, no matter where they are in a supply chain, measure sales and financial metrics daily, or at least weekly or monthly. Why would you not, or at least not want to, do the same for the humans in the workplace? It is our view that if everyone is pulling in the same direction, together, we are all far better off. And, in business, so is your bottom line.

We are on the cusp of a paradigm shift in understanding working conditions. slavefreetrade is at the forefront of this development. This new paradigm will be characterised by real-time feedback, continuous engagement, contextual and nuanced questions, immediate analysis and assessment, hooks into immediate triage and remediation mechanisms, and immediate impact feedback.

“We are on the cusp of a paradigm shift in understanding working conditions.”

Real-time, continuous worker feedback is both desirable and absolutely possible with modern technology. And it is a hallmark of our work – with a hybrid of conventional and private permissioned blockchain tech - to make it happen in supply chains and work sites across the globe.

So, why is it important? What are the benefits of real-time versus periodic? Continuous, versus sporadic? How does this supposed new paradigm hep you? In the following ways:

Resolve issues before they escalate

With the ongoing pulse check that the likes of slavefreetrade can bring, you can find out about problems when they actually occur, not 3, 12, or even 24 months later when the condition has blown up from a minor issue to a major and scandalous deficiency. Keep that light burning in your workplaces continuously, and your workplaces will be impervious to modern slavery.

Programmed reporting periods are problematic when looking to spot and remedy modern slavery. With ongoing reporting and continuous monitoring, it is not always going to be perfect, but certainly better as a method for eliminating fraud from the results, improving the integrity of the data coming from any workplace, and making sure the standards are being adhered to on an on-going basis, not just at specific points in time.

Let’s face it, monitoring workplace conditions is complex in big organisations, spread over continents. It takes all hands on deck. The human factor in managing processes and workplaces alone can mean conditions are let go, or are not good enough to start with. It is important to catch below-standard conditions before they blow up, and sales and profits plummet.

Ask better questions

At slavefreetrade, we are spending endless hours of our scarce volunteer resources to design the questions for worker feedback and engagement that make all the difference. Our now almost 400 questions are grounded in standards that have to be maintained, and those standards themselves are derived from the 10 principles of our verification framework. The process involved translating objective international law and human rights principles into subject and contextual questions. Our principles, in turn, are grounded in international human rights law and the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

And we have spent the other of our volunteer hours on building the hybrid tech solution I mentioned above, to take our questions to employees in a way that makes them feel safe, trusted, engaged, and hopeful.

The prospect of ongoing feedback helps us ask better questions and, actually, fewer of them compared to traditional models. Because we don’t have to bombard a worker with a huge swag of questions all at once, on a biannual or other specified workplace health check, our genuine approach and the fact that we ask good, probing, but simple questions helps us improve connections and build trust. Because we sample frequently, we don’t need to ask every worker every question in our set. And that friendly cadence helps us also improve connections and build trust between employees and their employer; one of the difficult trust relationships that is broken where modern slavery flourishes.

It is really important to dig deeper than the mere answers being provided, though. Serious analytics are needed. A lot can be happening under the covers that we cannot know about without the deeper understanding that comes from analysis. We map the feedback from questions for trust levels, for coercion, for congruence, and for anomalies. And we have aspirations - once we find the resources - for our tech hybrid to include machine learning that helps narrows in on issues and make even better questions. Importantly, we know that asking our questions, which is the simple act of demonstrating that we are listening, is essential to increase employee trust and engagement. Over time, that improves our data set because trust grows.

More meaningful conversations

Just like an employee performance review conducted for an hour a year does not give you a solid picture of an employee’s actual work, so it is for workplace conditions. A conversation that takes place between employer and employee at a periodic interval, whatever that interval might be, does not allow for gauging real conditions and real engagement.

Knowing how conditions are all the time, from the mouths of the workers themselves, actually opens up the possibility for more real and more meaningful conversations between employers and employees. That, in turn, promotes trust, which comes back around to reinforce the quality of the answers to the questions being asked.

As a business owner, working on slavefreetrade’s platform, you’ll enjoy conversations that would almost certainly not happen if you weren’t dedicated to a real time approach to workplace conditions and worker health.

Share insights to boost productivity

Analytics that reports on your real-time workplace conditions globally, at a glance, help you drive your business forward. Getting workplaces across your company and your supply chain lined up on worker’s rights and conditions requires a common standard; it requires sharing insights and initiatives. That demands global monitoring with consistency.

Building trust with your employees, making staff feel valued and appreciated by transparently sharing insights, or acting on those insights in direct response to feedback, shows you are listening. It also involves your employees in driving positive change; a great workplace is everyone’s job.

“A great workplace is everyone’s job”

No more isolated snapshots

Traditional methods of assessing workplace conditions across vast workplaces and locations provide a snapshot of one given moment in time. Using this snapshot as a foundation for knowing and acting is like changing fundamental aspects of your life based on a Polaroid. And when employees get asked about workplace habits on that random and sporadic basis, will they truly be honest? Will they feel anonymous? Is there enough trust that there is a point to the exercise?

Moreover, the snapshot is often delivered months after the questions are asked in the field. Once workers complete the audit of their conditions, more time passes until the auditors and then the higher-ups examine the results, and another month to come up with priorities and hopefully an action plan at some stage. This is late. And slow.

It does not have to be that way. A video of your life is a better foundation for making changes than a Polaroid is. On-going understanding and immediate analysis will only serve to bring home benefits faster to your business ambitions.

Know when you need to take action

With slavefreetrade, thanks to our elaborate monitoring mechanism, you are notified in real time when something triggers a positive or negative response among your coworkers. You can take action straight away; no recriminations for moving too slowly to identify and remedy serious issues.

We don’t leave you on your own to fix things when they come up. We have a professional panel of experts ready to help with anything that might come up on alert. Then all you need is the will to face the challenges and the joy to celebrate your wins with the resulting flow-on to your business health.

With what we can provide for real-time and ongoing feedback, you can easily measure the impact at any moment. It is live. And the numbers are right in front of you on your dashboard.

Spot trends

With real-time feedback we help you increase the chances of quickly changing course if conditions change for the worse.

This helps you really affect workplace change and improve worker engagement in your day-to-day, helping both employers and employees to take responsibility for the condition or trend, and to be responsible for collaborating for making positive change happen.

Better workplace conditions, and higher employee trust in their employer, translates directly to higher workplace productivity, which has a direct correlation with your bottom line. The human bottom line impacts directly your financial bottom line; it is mad not to look after that and measure it like you do your financials.

Know if your initiatives are working

While we work with you to fix conditions, in any other context you would not know, or not for some time, if anything you do has made an impact.

With slavefreetrade, with continuous monitoring, you are defacto ‘checking up’ on applied remedies to find out if they work, and whether your actions are giving you a return on your investment. Have conditions demonstrably improved, and has that improved productivity?

As a rule, we support the repeating of things that have a positive effect and get you going in the right direction. And dumping measures that don’t work in a demonstrated way. Seeing positive change taking place in your workplace right there on your dashboard in the wake of implementing a remedy is like seeing where you are going in real-time on your navigation system; it is the surest way we can think of to get you where you want to go. Why would you want to do anything else?

To find out how we can use our worker feedback to keep you and your supply chain free of modern slavery, drop us a line.